The tiny village of Bibury has long been recognised as one of the prettiest places in the Cotswolds and is much visited by tourists. It is everything you might magine an old English village to be; so much so that some visitors, according to local gossip, not realising that it isn’t a theme park creation, walk into people’s homes to have a look around.
Ancient cottages in mellow Cotswold stone, a crystal clear, trout-filled river running alongside the main street, an old mill and a great pub offering food and accomodation all make Bibury “the most beautiful English village” as William Morris, the Arts and Crafts textile designer described it when he visited during the 1800’s.
The old cottages are so perfect and their setting so tranquil that they appear to have created an ethos amongst their owners: each house and garden has to be more well maintained than their neighbours. The only weeds I saw there were across the river in the marsh and, of course, not only were they growing where they belong – in a wild setting – but there were only the most attractive ones such as Yellow Flags, the bog irises and the flat, white heads of the hogweeds.
No English village is complete without its church and pub and Bibury has both. The church of St Mary’s dates back to the 12th century and is well worth seeking out for it is tucked away down one of Bibury’s few side streets.
Exploring Arlington Row gives visitors an opportunity to see just how higgledy-piggledy the construction of old house are. The old stone walls and mismatched rooflines and windows are juxtaposed seemingly at random – a modern planning departments nightmare.
Despite, the large numbers of tourists (for we all like to believe that we fall out of that category and will be the only persons there), Bibury is well worth making the effort to visit. It is situated close to Cirencester, one of the most important Roman towns in the UK, with its wealth of history and it is also within easy reach of Oxford. If I had to choose only one place to take a visitor to see, I think that Bibury would be highly placed on the list.
Let me know – especially overseas readers, please – which would be the one place that epitomises old rural living in your country.